Volunteering from home

Posted on 17-05-2021 by Maria Hughes

Volunteering from home the story of one of our volunteers who joined just before the first lockdown.

Our volunteer, Emma, shared their experiences with us, to celebrate Volunteers’ Week 2021.

I originally applied to volunteer to be front of house staff and an events co-ordinator for the centre in March 2020. I completed all of my training online over the summer and attended any optional training I could as I found these sessions really engaging. As much as the experience volunteering was not what I was expecting because it all took place online, the training itself involved hanging out with nice, new people which helped massively with the boredom and isolation of lockdown. Trying to have some semblance of a normal life by turning up to training and engaging with different people was really positive and I learnt a lot about the centre and the LGBT community.

After completing my training, I was asked if I would be interested in becoming a befriender and mentor. I wondered how I would fit this into my 3rd year university studies, but I thought it would be a nice experience and allow me to put all the training to good use. I first matched with a lovely gentleman and after 10 sessions of befriending with him I mentored another lovely woman for 10 sessions. I looked forward to each session every week and enjoyed the extra work I did after the calls to research things that could help who I was calling. I often found that the conversations and advice I would give those I was helping were things I needed to remind myself, such as things like self-care. Even though this was not the role I applied for, I had a lot of fun being part of it and found the work had many positives in my own life.

I’ve also enjoyed being part of the events at the centre such as the online fortnightly women’s socials; the Christmas social; the mandala art workshop and the all-day disco theme event. Meeting people (sometimes who were joining zoom from another country) was a really enjoyable experience that I always looked forward to. Even though there are people who I have been speaking to solely online for over a year now, I have been able to create memories, have some laughs and form bonds with people during this period of lockdown. For my own personal wellbeing this has been a source of fun and connection with people that I have really appreciated.

From my volunteering training I was inspired to look further into LGBT related academia as I study philosophy. This research actually formed what I have written my 5000-word dissertation on. This work was an exploration of the academic arguments which aim to invalidate the identities of transgender women (none of which I found convincing). I am really grateful for the training that I received that helped me think on what I was going to pick for such a big piece of my university education. I had an amazing experience talking to the influential transgender author Juno Roche at one of the LGBT centre’s online events, of which I was able to discuss my project with her. These opportunities have all spurred from my decision to apply for an events role at the centre just before a global pandemic, and I am so grateful for the way things have turned out.

I want to say a big thank you to the centre for giving me the opportunity to be part of such an important and lovely organisation. There have been so many positives for me personally that it is hard to put it down in so few words. It has been great to feel like I have been contributing back to the community which has supported me. Next step is going to New Jersey to work as a camp counsellor after I graduate this summer, then I move to London. I will definitely keep in touch!